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Low IQ and Dyslexia

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: My daughter has recently had a WISC-IV & WIAT II - full scale IQ 54. She also has ASD & ADHD. The test concluded that she also has severe SpLD (dyslexia). However, the Local Authority say that because she has a low IQ, that there is not enough evidence that she is also dyslexic. Her score showed 0.01 statistical difference between predicted & actual scores. What do you think? Can a child be dyslexic and have a very low IQ?

A: For the longest time, a child diagnosed as being dyslexic has been also seen as bright and verbally articulate, but struggles to read. In fact, as a rule of thumb, children who score high in intelligence tests but have low reading abilities are seen as dyslexics. Alternatively, if a child has low IQ and also low reading abilities, they are seen as having lowered cognitive abilities in general - and not specifically a reading disorder. In short, the low IQ is the cause of reading problems and not specific to having dyslexia.

However, recent studies have found that children who are poor readers have the same brain difficulty in processing the sounds of language whether they have a high or low IQ. This indicates that reading difficulty is independent of other cognitive abilities and should not be assumed dependent and labelled without further testing.

Having said that, a good number of public school systems still require that a child have an otherwise normal IQ score to receive a diagnosis of dyslexia and this may be the case with your child. However, new studies have suggested that even children with low IQ scores might benefit from treatment specific to dyslexia. Read the article "NIH-funded study finds dyslexia not tied to IQ" for more information on this.

You may need to speak to the school regarding this. I believe intervention to treat dyslexia may be very helpful for her to manage better at school and I hope you would push for this (look up more articles to prove your point). Best of luck.


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